I am a strong believer in the need for keeping multiple backups of all important files and storing those backups in multiple places. At a minimum, you should be keeping the original file(s) on your computer, a backup of each important file in a location that is close and convenient to your computer, and still another backup that is stored "off-site." In this case, "off-site" might be at your place of work, at a relative's home, in a safe deposit box, or on a server out on the Internet.
In the past few years, a number of online services have appeared that provide automated backup services. You install the software, do a bit of configuration, and then sit back and let your computer make frequent backups automatically.
These online backup services used to be very expensive, but prices started dropping two or three years ago. Today you can obtain FREE backups for up to two gigabytes of files and even unlimited space for the ridiculously low price of $4.95 a month. That's cheaper than purchasing an external disk drive for backup purposes and provides the extra advantage of storing your files “off site.”
I have been a big fan of Mozy, a popular online backup service. However, I have recently been experimenting with a different online backup service that was launched a few weeks ago. I must say that I am impressed with Backblaze.
Mozy and Backblaze are very similar services, and you won't go wrong with either one. However, Backblaze has a few more options than Mozy and is also slightly cheaper if you pay a year in advance. I am switching to Backblaze for my backups.
Both services provide automatic backups several times per day, assuming that your computer is powered up and is connected to the Internet. The first backup may require several days or even a week or more to complete, depending upon how much data you have and the speed of your Internet connection. Most home broadband systems will send two to four gigabytes per day. Don't even think about backing up on a dial-up connection!
Once the first backup is completed, all future "incremental backups" will complete within a minute or two as the only items backed up are any new files or newly-updated files. The files that have been backed up previously remain on the company's servers, so there is no need to send them again. These new "incremental backups" are usually quite small and therefore complete quickly, typically within a minute or two.
Both services encrypt your files first, using an encryption key that you create, before sending the files across the Internet to the company's servers. The files are still fully encrypted when stored on the company's servers. Nobody can decrypt and look at your files unless you give that person the encryption key. Not even the company's employees can see your files. To retrieve your files, you must supply the encryption key. Of course, if you ever forget the encryption key, your files cannot be restored and decrypted.
I should also point out that neither service really backs up ALL files. Both of these services are designed to back up your critical data files, not the boot record, Windows pagefile, system files, applications, and unnecessary files such as the contents of your trash can. In case of a critical system failure, such as a hard disk crash, the assumption is that you will first fix the hardware, then reload the operating system and applications from the original distribution CD disks. Finally, you will turn to the online backup systems to restore your data files.
Backblaze has several features that I did not find on Mozy:
Both Mozy and Backblaze offer a second option: the companies will copy your files to CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disks and send them to you by overnight express. Naturally, there is a charge for this special service, and you also have to pay the freight charges.
Backblaze offers a third option that I have not seen on Mozy. The company will copy the files you specify to an external hard drive with a USB connection and then ship that drive to you via overnight freight, again for a charge. In effect, you are purchasing the new hard drive from Backblaze, and the company loads your data onto it before shipping. The advantage of this process is that it is faster and easier than CD or DVD disks, and you end up with an external hard drive that you can continue to use on a daily basis.
Mozy does have one major advantage over Backblaze: the company allows private users to store up to two gigabytes of data free of charge. That will be sufficient space from many people. However, if you have a lot of pictures, multimedia files, or other large files to back up, you may find yourself quickly exceeding the two-gigabyte limit.
Depending on your personal needs and preferences, either service is a great way to ensure that your important files – genealogy and otherwise – are safe from destruction. Both also offer free trials, so you have nothing to lose and much to gain by taking either for a test drive. To take advantage of Backblaze, go to www.backblaze.com. For Mozy, visit www.mozy.com.